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The design of this pamphlet was to persuade the people that ELIZAthe ecclesiastical government ought to be changed, and the
her and them, all manner of jurisdiction, privileges, and pre-eminences, in any wise touching or concerning any spiritual or ecclesiastical jurisdiction, within the realms of England and Ireland, and to visit, reform, redress, order, correct, and amend all such errors, heresies, schisms, abuses, contempts, offences, and enormities whatsoever, 'which, by any manner of spiritual, or ecclesiastical power, authority or jurisdiction, can or may lawfully be reformed, ordered, redressed, corrected, restrained, or amended :' provided that they have no power to determine any thing to be heresy, but what has been adjudged to be so by the authority of the canonical scripture, or by the first four general councils, or any of them; or by any other general council, wherein the same was declared heresy by the express and plain words of canonical scripture; or such as shall hereafter be declared to be heresy by the high court of parliament, with the assent of the clergy in convocation. This statute confers no power whatever to fine, imprison, or inflict corporal punishment; and when the court transgressed its limits, the remedy was always in the power of the injured, by applying to the ordinary courts for a prohibition. The real object was to correct the heresies of the clergy, by suspension and deprivation; and surely, if there be a national establishment, all, that enjoy functions under it, ought to conform to its rules. Were it otherwise, the office might be converted to a very different purpose; and here it may be remarked, that the numerous suspensions, and deprivations in this reign, (their number, by the way, may be fairly doubted,) afford no ground for charging the government with tyranny, since the doctrine and conduct of the ecclesiastics were irreconcilable to the establishment under which they accepted of livings. At this day the same consequences would follow.- Various commissions were issued by this princess; and, in 1584, she granted one to forty-four individuals, by which she empowers them to inquire into all misdemeanors, not only by the oath of twelve men, and by witnesses, but by all other ways and means they can devise.' Mr. Hume, following Mr. Neal, says, that this included the rack, torture, inquisition, imprisonment: but, besides that the rack never was attempted, the other clauses distinctly show that it never was contemplated". The very next clause distinctly appoints them to punish all who obstinately absent themselves from church, &c., by censure, or any other lawful'
ways and means, and to levy the penalties according to the forms prescribed by the act of uniformity. The third clause authorizes them to visit and reform heresies, &c., which may 'lawfully be reformed or restrained by censures ecclesiastical, deprivation or otherwise, according to the power and authority limited and appointed by the laws, ordinances, and statutes of the realm.' The fifth clause empowers them to punish ‘incest, adulteries, and all grievous offences punishable by the ecclesiastical laws, according to the tenour of the laws in that behalf, and according to your wisdom, consciences, and discretions; commanding you, or any three of you, to devise all such 'lawful' ways and means for the searching out the premises, as by you shall be thought necessary.' Having cleared up this point, we may observe, that the commission was extremely arbitrary in authorizing the oath ex officio, by which the accused was bound to answer interrogatories against himself, and in empowering the commissioners to fine and imprison. Of its illegality the queen and commissioners were so fully aware, that, as we learn from sir Edward Coke, the commission was not, as it ought to have been, enrolled in Chancery, lest it should have been questioned. Besides, though fines were 'imposed,' not one was levied ' in Elizabeth's time, by any judicial process out of the exchequer ; 'nor any subject, in his body, lands, or goods, charged therewith.'
Many arbitrary acts were committed by the commissioners; but, though Mr. Neal is pleased in one place to say, that the privilege of prohibition from Westminster
"! I fear that Hume's assertion respecting the rack, &c. is too true. Hacket, according to Collier, was tortured by this infernal instrument-not to mention many other instances.
WHIT: Presbyterian discipline set up; that this latter was practised GIFT,
in the primitive Church, and commanded to be continued Abp. Cant.
hall was seldom allowed by the commissioners, there does not appear, even from his own writings, to have been an instance of the prohibition having been refused. Indeed, when it came to that, the ordinary courts were bound to support their own jurisdiction, and the judges, in that reign, afforded many proofs of their readiness to assert the laws. The great cause of so many submitting to injustice and oppression from this court, seems to have been their unwillingness to forfeit all hope of ecclesiastical preferment; for they never scrupled to accept of livings under an establishment, which yet they would not allow to be a Church. The commissioners used to send pursuivants to ransack houses ; but, when an individual defended his rights by killing the officer who attempted to enter his house by virtue of a warrant from the commissioners, the ordinary judges declared that he was not liable to prosecution, and dismissed him from the bar. It was in the time of Charles I. that this court lost all decency, and was no longer under the control of the laws, as the judges, who were governed by Laud, and changed at the pleasure of the king, did not longer vindicate their own jurisdiction.'
“ Hallam has only the following brief notice of this important institution :
"• The act of supremacy, while it restored all ecclesiastical jurisdiction to the crown, empowered the queen to execute it by commissioners appointed under the great seal, in such manner and for such time as she should direct; whose power should extend to visit, correct, and amend all heresies, schisms, abuses and offences whatever, which fall under the cognizance and are subject to the correction of spiritual authority. Several temporary commissions had sat under this act with continually augmented powers, before that appointed in 1583, wherein the jurisdiction of this anomalous court almost reached its zenith. It consisted of forty-four commissioners, twelve of whom were bishops, many more privy-counsellors, and the rest either clergymen or civilians. This commission, after reciting the acts of supremacy, uniformity, and two others, directs them to inquire from time to time, as well by the oaths of twelve good and lawful men, as by witnesses and all other means they can devise, of all offences, contempts or misdemeanors done and committed contrary to the tenour of the said acts and statutes; and also to inquire of all heretical opinions, seditious books, contempts, conspiracies, false rumours or talks, slanderous words and sayings, &c., contrary to the aforesaid laws. Power is given to any three commissioners, of whom one must be a bishop, to punish all persons absent from church, according to the act of uniformity, or to visit and reform heresies and schisms according to law; to deprive all beneficed persons holding any doctrine contrary to the thirty-nine articles, to punish incests, adulteries, and all offences of the kind; to examine all suspected persons on their oaths, and to punish all who should refuse to appear or to obey their orders, by spiritual censure or by discretionary fine or imprisonment; to alter and amend the statutes of colleges, cathedrals, schools, and other foundations, and to tender the oath of supremacy according to the act of parliament.'
“ He calls this “tremendous machinery,' and says lord Burleigh wrote in strong terms to Whitgift against the articles of examination as “so curiously penned, so full of branches and circumstances, as he thought the inquisitors of Spain used not so many questions to comprehend and to trap their preys.' Hallam says in a note, “the germ of the High Commission-court seems to have been a commission granted by Mary (Feb. 1557) to certain bishops and others to inquire after all heresies, punish persons misbehaving at church, and such as refused to come thither, either by means of presentment, by witness, or any other politic way they could devise ; with full power to proceed as their discretions and consciences should direct them; and to use all such means as they could invent for the searching of the premises, to call witnesses, and force them to make oath of such things as might discover what they sought after. But the primary model was the inquisition itself.
" It was questioned whether the power of deprivation for not reading the Common Prayer granted to the high commissioners were legal ; the act of uniformity having an
through all ages ; that the Nonconformits had done nothing ELIZAagainst the statute 23rd Eliz. cap. 2; and that Udall was illegally condemned ; that the abettors of the consistory were unjustly charged with innovation and disloyalty. After this, the author made it his business to draw an odium
the English hierarchy.
By these public challenges, the queen was fully convinced the Puritans were not to be governed by gentleness and connivance, and that nothing but fear and impotence would make them sit down and be quiet. To cure the stubbornness of their temper, she provided a harsher remedy in the next parliament: but of that afterwards.
In the mean time I shall bring the reader to the parliament held at Edinburgh, where several petitions were exhibited in behalf of the Kirk. First: That the statutes made in the June,
. year 1584, against the liberties and discipline of the Church, Petitions might be repealed, and the discipline now practised confirmed. presented by
the Kirk to Secondly: That the Annexation Act should be repealed, and parliament. restitution made of the Church's patrimony. Thirdly : That the abbots, priors, and other prelates carrying the distinctions of ecclesiastics, and voting in that quality for the Church, without commission from the assemblies, might not be admitted for the future as members of parliament. And, fourthly : That an effectual remedy might be provided for purging the realm of idolatry and blood. The second and third petitions were set aside. To satisfy the last, it was enacted, that “saying of mass, receiving of Jesuits, seminary priests, and trafficking Papists against the king's majesty, and religion presently professed, should be a just cause to incur the pain and crime of treason.” This statute came short of what was desired by Jam. 6. the Kirk : for the trafficking against religion, as they call it, cap. 122. was not made treason unless an attempt against the prince could be made out. As to the complaint of murder, left to the courts of justice.
The granting their first petition stuck for some time. The king was unwilling either to abrogate the acts of 1584, or confirm the present discipline. He was apprehensive this
nexed a much smaller penalty. But it was held by the judges in the case of Caudrey that the act did not take away the ecclesiastical jurisdiction and supremacy which had ever appertained to the crown, and by virtue of which it might erect courts with as full spiritual jurisdiction as the archbishops and bishops exercised.'”
vernment and disci
WHIT- might prove a dangerous concession, and that the ministers Abp. Cant. would prove very troublesome under such privilege. But, on
the other side, several of the nobility being disaffected to the
Reformation, and suspected for a correspondence with Spain, 1 and Bothwell having lately escaped out of custody, and forced
Holyrood-house, the king thought it necessary to strengthen
his interest by obliging the Kirk. And thus the statute The Preshy- passed by which it is enacted, “ That it shall be lawful to the
Kirk and ministers, every year at least, and oftener, pro re pline settled nata, as occasion and necessity shall require, to hold general by act of parliament.
assemblies; with this proviso, however, that the king or his commissioners shall be present at each general assembly, and appoint the time and place for the next meeting. But in case neither his majesty nor his commissioners appear in the assembly, that then the assembly, may fix these circumstances themselves. Farther, the synodical and provincial assemblies, held twice a-year, are ratified and confirmed; and so are the presbyteries and particular sessions, together with the whole jurisdiction and discipline of the Kirk agreed on by his majesty in conference with certain of the ministers." The tenor of the articles agreed is as follows:
“Matters to be treated in Provincial Assemblies.
“ These assemblies are constituted for weighty matters, to be managed by mutual consent and assistance of brethren within the province, as need requires. This assembly has power to debate, order, and redress all things omitted or mismanaged in the particular assemblies. It has authority to depose the office-bearers in that province; and, in general, this assembly has the whole power of the particular elderships of which it consists.
" Matters to be transacted in the Presbyteries.
“ The presbyteries have authority within their bounds to see the churches are kept in good order; to inquire into the misbehaviour of those within their precincts, and to endeavour their recovery by admonition or correction. It belongs to this eldership to take care the word of God is preached in its purity within their bounds; that the sacraments are rightly adminis
tered, the discipline maintained, and the ecclesiastical revenues ELIZAfairly distributed. It belongs to these presbyteries to execute the decrees made in the provincial and general assemblies, and
636. to make constitutions for order and decency in the particular Kirk where they govern ; provided that they alter no regulations made by provincial or general assemblies; and that they acquaint the provincial assemblies with the constitutions made by them. They have power to excommunicate the obstinate, the forms of law, with respect to time, and other circumstances, being observed.
“As to particular Kirks, if they are lawfully governed by sufficient ministry and session, they have power and jurisdiction in their own congregation, in matters ecclesiastical.”
These articles, agreed by the king and the ministers, are confirmed by the statute, which declares, “and enacts, the said assemblies, presbyteries, and sessions with their jurisdiction and discipline aforesaid," to be in all times coming, most just, good, and godly in themselves ; “any statutes, canon, civil or municipal laws to the contrary notwithstanding. And all acts made in favour of the papistical Kirk, and tending to the prejudice of the liberty of the true Kirk of God, are abrogated, cassed, and annulled." Farther, it is enacted, “ That the hundred and nine-and
twentieth act of the parliament held at Edinburgh, A. D. 1584, See above. shall be no ways prejudicial, nor derogate anything to the privilege that God has given to spiritual office-bearers in the Kirk, concerning heads of religion, matters of heresy, excommunication, collation, or deprivation of ministers, or any such essential censures, especially grounded, and having warrant by the word of God."
This act of 1584, which established the regale, is repealed cap. 116. in general and guarded expressions. It was thus couched, without question, to secure a reserve for the king's ecclesiastical supremacy. It is declared the act of 1584 shall be no ways prejudicial to the spiritual office-bearers in the Church ; but then it is not precisely set forth what those privileges are, nor who must be judges whether they are warranted by the word of God or not.
Lastly, the statute made in the said year 1584, granting commission to bishops, and other ecclesiastical judges, to receive his highness's presentation to benefices, to give colla